LGBTQ Representation is Nearly Invisible in Advertising and GLAAD Calls for Change at the 2022 Cannes Lions Festival

By mbartley | July 12, 2022

GLAAD attended the 2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the largest global gathering of the creative marketing community, to discuss the state of LGBTQ inclusion in the advertising industry and corporate responsibility as harmful rhetoric and anti-LGBTQ legislation continue to rise. 

The Female Quotient’s ‘Transitioning into Acceptance: How the Advertising Industry Can Continue to Change the Narrative Regarding the LGBTQIA+ Community’

The Female Quotient presented a panel in the Cannes Lions Equality Lounge on industry representation for the LGBTQ community in advertising entitled ‘Transitioning into Acceptance.’ GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis moderated the panel which featured: Sean Macdonald, Global Chief Digital Officer at McCann WorldGroup, Tristen Norman, Head, Creative Insights, Americas at Getty Images, and Brent Miller, Senior Director, Global LGBTQ+ Equality, Creative Content and Partnerships at Procter & Gamble.

Ellis shared GLAAD’s reason for prioritizing work in the ad industry saying, “GLAAD is here at Cannes Lions because less than 2% of ads in mainstream advertising include LGBTQ people. We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s time to call brands in.“

Sean Macdonald, Sarah Kate Ellis, Brent Miller, and Tristen Norman at The Female Quotient's Equality Lounge, Cannes Lions 2022

Meta’s DE&I Gathering ‘Limitless: We Gather’

Meta presented DE&I programming entitled ‘Limitless: We Gather’ hosted by Meta Global Industry Initiatives Lead Scott Reed. Within the programming were a fireside chat with Christena Pyle, dentsu America’s Chief Equity Officer, and a panel featuring moderated by Reed which featured Sarah Kate Ellis, Lisette Arsuaga, co-Founder of ANA AIMM, and Heidi Arthur, Chief Campaign Development Officer of Ad Council.

Sarah Kate Ellis, Lisette Arsuaga, Heidi Arthur, Scott Reed, and Christena Pyle at Meta Beach's DE&I Gathering, Cannes Lions 2022

GLAAD partners called out the behind-the-scenes consulting work that the GLAAD Media Institute provides in helping them with LGBTQ inclusion in their own campaigns and allowing out employees to bring themselves authentically to their work. 

Sarah Kate Ellis and Lisette Arsuaga at Meta Beach's DE&I Gathering, Cannes Lions 2022

When addressing the business case for LGBTQ inclusion, Ellis shared the need for GLAAD’s Visibility Project to expand LGBTQ storytelling in advertising and stated, “In business, margins are razor-thin. But the way out of razor-thin margins is in expanding your work. Growth is in the minority becoming the majority. When you’re thinking about your business plans and how to grow your market share, you have to invest in DEI. Embed intersectional diversity into the business.” 

Nielsen and AIMM’s ‘Power Up Brunch: Growth Through Inclusion Marketing’

Ellis and Arsuaga also participated in a brunch hosted by Nielsen and the Association of National Advertisers’ Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM). The conversation also featured Gilbert Davila, co-founder of ANA AIMM, and Jamie Moldafsky, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Nielsen. 

Ellis, Arsuaga, and Davila discussed the work of AIMM and collective goals for diverse, intersectional, and authentic inclusion of multicultural audiences. Ellis also shared her perspectives that are captured in the soon-to-be-released AIMM Case for Growth Playbook:

“This is a growth story: The LGBTQ community is growing in size and our share of voice is growing. We want to work with companies that include us — that include us, our families, our allies, and all of us. And the net result is a better world, better business for companies, and a better, more inclusive world for everyone.”

Sarah Kate Ellis at Nielsen and AIMM Panel, Cannes Lions 2022

“One of the challenges that companies are up against with Gen Z, is that they are their future employees and consumers. And their baseline is inclusivity. That’s not a bonus point for them. Companies need to stop allowing marginalized groups to be politicized and understand that these are human rights they have to weigh in on because they work for stakeholders not just shareholders any longer.”

iHeart’s ‘ LGBTQ Media Representation with Sam Smith’ Luncheon

Following a third successful year of Can’t Cancel Pride from partners iHeart and P&G, iHeart hosted an industry luncheon and panel on the iHeart Yacht moderated by iHeart Chief Marketing Officer Gayle Troberman which featured global music superstar Sam Smith, Sarah Kate Ellis, and P&G’s Brent Miller. Can’t Cancel Pride is a music-filled fundraiser for the LGBTQ community and non-profits celebrating visibility and inclusivity for all. The third-annual event, hosted by JoJo Siwa, honored Elton John with the first-ever Impact Award for his humanitarian work, and featured performances from leading artists including Sam Smith singing ‘Love Me More’

Sarah Kate Ellis and Sam Smith, Cannes Lions 2022

The panelists discussed how Can’t Cancel Pride allows LGBTQ youth who are otherwise disconnected from the community a space to celebrate Pride and their authentic selves. Ellis also encouraged attendees to consider how they can participate in making the world safer and more accepting for Can’t Cancel Pride audiences. 

“If you want to know where you can make a difference start with your company. Make sure you have internal processes and HR policies in place within your own house before you do things externally. And then go out with your values. Use your platform, access, and economic power to speak up as CEOs against these anti-LGBTQ bills. The Equality Act is in the Senate and companies are not speaking with Senators about LGBTQ issues. We are not going to accept that anymore. You need to speak out and you need to support our community,” said Ellis. 

Sarah Kate Ellis, Brent Miller, Sam Smith, and Gayle Troberman, iHeart Lunch and Panel, Cannes Lions 2022

Paramount CODED Screening

Paramount hosted a screening of GLAAD Media Award-winning documentary ‘Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker’ at MediaLink Beach’s Braze Salon. Sarah Kate Ellis and P&G’s Brent Miller discussed the current state of LGBTQ inclusion in advertising and the backlash of anti-LGBTQ legislation that parallels activity happening in the early 20th century with Paramount moderator, Ed Fogarty, Senior Vice President, Convergent Sales, Paramount+ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Champion. 

As communicated in the film, despite a burst of acceptance for LGBTQ people in the 1920s, J.C. Leyendecker was coded in his representation of queerness in media. Modern advertisers like Subaru followed his lead with ads subtly targeted to and coded for lesbians while today’s advertising from brands like Calvin Klein moved inclusion to overt use of LGBTQ models. 

Ellis said, “We’ve had tremendous progress with LGBTQ rights and though we are seeing legislative backlash now, we will spring forward in this movement like a slingshot. We need brands who won’t just market to us but join us. It’s our job to reflect the society we want. And you – the advertising community – have extraordinary platforms to speak out and create visibility for LGBTQ people.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, Brent Miller, and Ed Fogarty speak at Paramount CODED Screening, Cannes Lions 2022

Google’s PRIDE at Google Beach 

The culmination of GLAAD’s attendance at the 2022 Cannes Lions was a celebration of Pride at Google Beach. A yearly event by Google, this is the only large-scale Pride event that occurs during the festival. As a part of the 2022 programming, Pride host and Google’s Senior Director of US Marketing, Devices & Services, Zach Overton, introduced GLAAD’s PSA featuring Texas mom Amber Briggle and her family to attendees. In the PSA, Briggle speaks about her transgender son and how recent anti-trans legislation is harming their family and other families with trans youth. The PSA is running nationwide on TV and streaming platforms owned by Comcast NBCUniversal, Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery, The Walt Disney Company and The Ad Council. . This was the first international showing of the PSA to a global audience. 

GLAAD hosted guests from Google, Meta, Microsoft, Mars Inc., Dentsu, Omnicom and more at a GLAAD cabana for discussions on LGBTQ representation and inclusion in advertising.

Sarah Kate Ellis, Meghan Bartley, Melissa Harris, Anthony Shallenberger attend Google PRIDE, Cannes Lions 2022
MJ DePalma, Bernie Milan, Melissa Harris, Ashley McGowan attend Google PRIDE, Cannes Lions 2022
Ro Kalonaros, Christena Pyle, Sarah Kate Ellis attend Google PRIDE, Cannes Lions 2022
Ro Kalonaros, MJ DePalma, Melissa Harris, Christena Pyle, Meghan Bartley, Ashley McGowan attend Google PRIDE, Cannes Lions 2022

The advertising industry has an outsized impact to drive acceptance for the LGBTQ community. GLAAD’s Visibility Project continues to push industry leaders to feature diverse LGBTQ representation in advertising and to leverage the power of corporates to take action on LGBTQ issues. 

As Ellis said during her appearance at the Nielsen and ANA AIMM event, “Our community expects companies to understand intersectionality when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion because issues like racial justice, reproductive rights, immigration, and voting rights are all LGBTQ issues. We are a community that includes every race, gender identity, religion, age, and people with disabilities. When GLAAD works with advertisers and marketers, we stress the importance of not only LGBTQ representation, but diverse LGBTQ representation.”